My life as a Circuit Pro.

Posted by: David Lythgoe [FORUM MODERATOR] | Sat 23rd May 2009 21:40 | Last Reply

PART ONE

What is a Circuit Pro as against a Tour Pro?

A Tour Pro plays on one level following a Tour, either the PGA Tour or the European Tour. A Circuit Pro plays wherever he can, sometimes in a small Regional Event and sometimes in an Open Championship.

During the 1972 Jubilee Celebrations Week at Roundhay GC I worked as a Caddie. First we saw Neil COLES, Peter ALLISS (then Pro at Moor Allerton GC, a few miles away), Maurice BEMBRIDGE, Brian HUGGETT, Tommy HORTON, Hedley MUSCROFT, David SNELL, Alex CAYGILL, and Angel GALLARDO take part in an 18 hole game. Maurice Bembridge shot 62 to win and who caddied for him? ME. I then took the Bag of EDDIE BULLOCK the Assistant at Roundhay for The Leeds & District Assistants Championship during the week and finished carrying Hedleys Bag again in the Pro-Am finale. I was asked if I would like to work in the shop and of course I said yes, so Hedley Muscroft became my boss.

My life as a Golf Professional started in March 1973 when I turned Professional. I had a handicap of 7 but that didn’t matter in those days. When I signed my Professional Forms, I also signed two "Contracts". You did in those days, every Club Pro got free equipment and was then expected to sell the full range plus all his assistants got free equipment too.

Hedley Muscroft was also playing on the PGA Tour at that time so our "Contract" was a good one. I was to play the ‘UNIROYAL’ golf ball which was marketed with Jack Nicklaus’s name on it although the ones we received only had Uniroyal on them. I got 6 balls each month and an extra dozen for each European Event I played in and a Practice Ball Bag with my name on it, saying that I "played the Jack Nicklaus Uniroyal". For the club side I was to get a set of BEN SAYERS clubs. In those days you told them what you wanted and they made them up, what I ended up with was a set of Ray Floyds that had been made for Ray Floyd himself but he had not taken delivery of them for some reason. They had Dynamic X shafts in them and I found they suited me perfectly. I can’t remember my first few outing as a Pro and the Scrapbook that my mother had kept with all Newspaper Cuttings was stolen in a break-in at her house in 1980. I will have played in the Yorkshire PGA Championship, Northern PGA Championship, Leeds Cup and Leeds Open.

I gained a reputation as a big hitter and an excellent striker of the ball and although I didn’t win anything or qualify for the bigger events I did make the odd cheque.

1973 was nearly a good year for Hedley, he thought he would make the Ryder Cup but he finished 13th in The Ryder Cup Table and they took the top 12, even though one of the team didn’t play a single match.

He was away a lot but I was still able to enter local Events, PGA Rules stated that I could not enter a PGA Tour Event during my first two years and being paid £7 p.w. I couldn’t afford it anyway. I did learn at that very early stage how tough it was to going to be to get into Events.

So it was selling Mars Bars and taking Green Fees for twelve hours a day and getting some golf in when I could. I had Friday off and usually joined up with a couple of other assistants for games. As the junior Assistant I was the last in line so I usually ended up looking after the shop on ‘Competition Days’ so breaking 80 was an achievement. Roundhay, was not far away was a lodging house for the entertainers visiting the local clubs. Some of these people played golf so we were their first port of call.

I was still a teenager so being able to mix with people you saw on the TV was great and with my boss being well know we also got visits from other Pro’s.

1975 arrived and my wage had gone up to the dizzy heights of £10 p.w. and I could now play in the big PGA Events, so off went the entry for the PGA Championship at Royal St Georges. I was drawn at Deal and because I couldn’t afford it I decided to drive down through the night and play it blind, then drive back home. What I didn’t know then was that other young Pro’s were in the same boat. I arrived at the club and found a guy I knew asleep on a bench, he’d got there by train the night before and had slept at the Railway Station. Another had slept in his car, which became the Norm for many of the young lads. Needless to say I didn’t qualify and it was then that I decided that if I couldn’t get accommodation I was only going to play close to home.

In 1975 also saw my boss ‘reward’ me by taking me to caddie for him in The Open, starting with Qualifying around the Old Course at St. Andrews. He made it into a play-off where a couple of spots in The Open along with "Alternate Spots" were available. The Play-Off was over 1, 17 , 18, 1, 17, 18 etc. Seven players were in the Play-Off, one holed a 40’ putt on the first and was IN, one hit the Burn and was OUT, one three putted and was OUT. Four went to the 17th where one hit his second shot Out of Bounds and three 4’s took them to the 18th. Hedley was second to hit and when he selected his Driver we saw that the head had split and would shatter when used. He decided that he had to hit it and we moved the gallery back so as to avoid any injuries. He hit his shot at the clock and part of the head flew off. The ball flew straight at the clock and the head began bouncing towards the Burn, the crowd began to cheer the head on and when it finally dropped into the water they cheered as though they had just welcomed the Champion home. I recovered the remains from the Burn and we discussed replacing the Driver with the referee as we walked up the 18th. It was decided that I should run to the car and fetch my Driver so if the Play-Off went further at least there was a Driver in the bag. So after my boss hit his second onto the green I took the clubs to the 1st tee and went and got my Driver. Upon my return I learned that one of the guys had made a three and had got the last spot while my boss and the guy had made fours and were off down the 1st again. My boss made four down the 1st, hitting my Driver straight at the 18th tee, the other guy had driven into the Burn down the right and conceded when he failed to hole his fourth shot.

My boss was "2nd Alternate" and would get the call to Carnoustie two days later but better for me was that I was invited to play round the Old Course the following morning before we set off home to Leeds.

After I finished playing at St Andrews we drove up to Carnoustie to register (this had to be done) then I drove us home to Leeds, arriving in the early hours of the morning.

Hedley got the phone call that morning and back to Carnoustie we went, its a seven hour drive.

He shot 75 in the first round and followed it with a 74 in the second. We didn’t know if it was OK so I was told to keep an eye on things while he went off for a few drinks in the ‘Bollinger Tent’.

I had his Players Badge so went off to the practice ground to hit some balls. There wasn’t any Equipment Vans or Range Balls in those days so it wasn’t the busy place it is today. I had been hitting balls up there every evening, so was known by the security staff. That afternoon I was joined by an American guy who began hitting shots with the biggest draw I had ever seen. After a while he came and talked to me while his caddy picked up his balls. He complimented me on my striking and asked me how I was doing, I had to tell him that I was only a Caddy and he said that I should be playing if I hit it like I did. He went when his caddy arrived back with his balls, I didn’t know who he was then. Three days later I did, when he collected his 1st Claret Jug after a play-off with Jack Newton.

After hitting a few more balls I made my way back to the "Bollinger Tent" finding out on the way that 149 was too many and I faced my fourth seven hour journey inside a week.

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
John Pettitt
Reply : Sat 23rd May 2009 22:00

Neil Coles used to live in Weybridge at the same time as me and he quite often came up to St.Georges Hill for a knock round. It was watching him that made me realise that flighting the ball low has a lot of advantages, which I tried to achieve all through my journey of this wonderful game.

Looking forward to reading the rest of the story, David, now that you have started.

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
Nick Thomson
Reply : Sat 23rd May 2009 22:16

Very interesting reading David.

But one thing is really bugging me. How on earth did it take you 7 hours to get to Carnoustie from Leeds???

I can get all the way to Reading in 7 and a half?!?!??!

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
David Lythgoe [FORUM MODERATOR]
Reply : Sat 23rd May 2009 23:24

Maybe because there was no Motorway in 1975 and we had to go through Edinburgh and Dundee.


Last edit : Sun 24th May 2009 00:12
re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
Patrick Bourke
Reply : Sun 24th May 2009 00:04

 David, that was a good read: it  opened up a lot of memories, Uniroyal balls with the distinctive dimples, Ray Floyd clubs (I caddied for a leftie called Ray Walker when I was 12 who had those). There was a 'big money game each Sunday afternoon for a big £10 note and if he won he'd give me a 10 bob note.

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
Matt Collins
Reply : Sun 24th May 2009 12:57

When you say you turned pro with a handicap of seven-do you mean by pro-to just help in the shop.  Because to be a pro, as I understand it, in the various forms, a handicap of seven is pretty poor.  I could see myself getting down to seven over the next coupld of seasons-but I will still be a million miles away from being pro in any sense!

did the handicap come down very quickly or were you a lot better than that handicap suggested?

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
David Lythgoe [FORUM MODERATOR]
Reply : Sun 24th May 2009 19:17

At that time, anyone could turn Pro. A couple of years later "The Playing Test" came into being. Anyone off Four or more had to attend the Test at The Belfry.

In 1973 you turned Pro, and that was it. Only in local Alliances did we get Hcp's starting at Six and then you lost Two for each win.

Ian Poulter was also off 7 when he turned Pro I believe. 

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
Matt Collins
Reply : Sun 24th May 2009 19:31

I heard that about Poulter-it wasn't seven more like 4 or 5 I recall.  He progressed very rapidly after turning.

Why would you turn pro at seven handicap?  Did you know you were a lot better than that or that you had potential?  I mean I could turn pro at tennis, but if you aren't any good you aren't gonna make a living or get in to any tournaments where you can make worthwhile money.  So at seven handicap did you actually get to play in any decent money tournaments or did you need to improve first? I cant visulise how you could be a serious pro at seven handicap, I guess it depends what pro means.

Anyway, liked reading your post! 

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
Russell Middleton [FORUM MODERATOR]
Reply : Sun 24th May 2009 23:11

David, a very interesting post and I look forward to reading more from you.

I understand what you mean by turning pro, anybody could turn pro but if they made any money at it was a different matter!

Russ

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
David Lythgoe [FORUM MODERATOR]
Reply : Mon 25th May 2009 02:09

Matt,

When I turned Pro, I had to be Nominated and Seconded by Qualified Members of the PGA. If they or I for that matter didn't think I was good enough to progress then they wouldn't have signed my Forms. Did you know that in the 1970's only a very small pocentage of Golf Pros made their living from Playing in Tournaments. Most of their income came from Teaching and gambling. Lessons were £5 for an hour and one lesson was equal to a weeks wage for most of us.

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
David Lythgoe [FORUM MODERATOR]
Reply : Mon 25th May 2009 02:12

PART TWO

In late 1975 the PGA announced that from 1977 only members of the newly formed ETPD (European Tour Players Division) could play every week and that in 1976 the first Qualifying School would be held. Before all you had to do was spend two years in a shop and you could play the Monday Qualifying for almost every Tournament. Now you had to go to the Q-School or only play in two Monday Qualifiers plus the PGA Championship.

The 1976 Q-School was to be played at Foxhills (Longcross & Chertsey) and Walton Heath. There were 127 Memberships (Cards) available to the 450 golfers who entered.

"You need to be fit to play full time" someone told me after I had sent off my entry for the November event.

I also knew that the whole of 1977 hinged on the four rounds of Q-School.

Playing 5-a-side Football a couple of times a week should help me get fitter I thought, how wrong I was.

I didn’t have the money to go and have practice rounds at all three courses before but I had played Foxhills Longcross in a Eurogolf Pro-Am earlier in the year.

The PGA organised some special prices for us at some local hotels and I booked a room for four nights. FOUR, yes four other local lads travelled down from Yorkshire with me and we all stayed in a twin room. Two of them took caddies so there were six of us in one room. I didn’t take a caddie or use one because I couldn’t afford one.

The week before, I went to play 5-a-side Football at a local Sports Centre and the idiots using the court before us had spilt some water and not mopped it up. I put my foot on it at full speed and slipped straight into a wall. I was lucky not to break anything but I did a lot of damage to my hips and knees.

My Doctor advised me not to play in the Q-School, but as the whole of 1977 depended on it I didn’t take his advice and travelled to London the day before the first round.

I wish I hadn’t.

I limped off the 18th green of the Longcross course after recording a 10, 12 and a 14 in a total of 107. After talking with the Officials I went to the local Hospital and got a painkilling injection.

The second round was at Walton Heath and I played, even though I was still in pain and managed an 83. I looked at the scores and saw that two 73’s would get me a Membership but I was in too much pain so withdrew and went home via the local Hospital for another painkilling injection.

Playing the newly formed European Tour in 1977 was no longer an option.

IF I had had a caddie and also had other practice rounds I may have been able to make the score by playing all four rounds but now I will never know.

I knew that my first day antic’s at Foxhills were giving great amusement to club golfers all over Europe but many of my fellow Pro’s were complimentary about the fact I had actually returned the score.

Not long after I received a letter from the PGA allocating me a place at the PGA School in January 1977 at Lillieshall Hall. The School was a two week residential and if you passed you became a Member of the PGA and could take a Club Professional job.

The two weeks consisted of seven days of revision and five days of exams, so in January 1977 off I went, Lillieshall was a Sports Centre and all types of sporting teams visited including many of the big Soccer Clubs.

On our first night there we met a number of young girls who were there for the first week of our stay. We had been told that they were the England Ladies UNDER 16 Lacrosse Team. We played Soccer, Rounders, & Table Tennis against them and they beat us most of the time. They went home on the Friday so most of us Golfers went down to a local Nightclub in Newport on the Saturday night. One of the lads was driving an Hillman Imp and when he returned to the Hall in the early hours he drove up the entrance road too fast, hit one of the speed bumps and left his engine behind. The second week was the exams so we all knuckled down and by the Friday most of us had been told that we had passed.

Lord Derby came to the Final Evening Dinner and said in his speech that he was aware that during the first week we had been told we were sharing the facilities with the England Ladies Under 16 Lacrosse Team and it had only taken us a few hours to find out they were actually the UNDER 18 Team.

I drove back to Leeds on the Saturday morning knowing that the first real hurdle had been cleared in my Professional Golf Career. I now had to decide if I was going to aim at a Club Professional or a Tour Professional and it was becoming clearer that the PGA themselves were making that choice for us young lads.

Having qualified I could apply for "Club Professional" positions but the cost of stocking a shop was beyond me so I turned to teaching for 1977. I sent off my entries for the Four big events that I could play in, The B & H, The PGA, The Open and The Callers of Newcastle and started to apply for Teaching Posts.

Qualifying for the B & H came and I was drawn at Selby, its only 25 minutes from where I lived so practice rounds were available and off I went with confidence and after handing in a one over par 72 thought I was in. WRONG! There were 15 places available at Selby that day and 23 players had shot level or better.

I faired no better two weeks later when I returned to Deal to try and get into the PGA.

Not long after I returned home I got a call from one of the applications I had sent off for a Teaching position, it included an invite to go for an interview. I went and came home with a new job, Assistant Pro at Hollingbury Park GC, Brighton. I moved down there and took up my new position at the beginning of June. Part of my duties was to teach young foreign students from the local Language College, they were between 15 and 17 and mainly from Sweden. Oh! and mostly female.

My wage was £17.50 per week, 50% of my teaching fees, plus 2% of all sales and by heck those Swedes didn’t half spend some money. I was on good money for the first time in my career but Chris Moody, the clubs Touring Pro warned me not to get carried away, and the bombshell hit 6 weeks into the job. As I had said I had entered two further Tournaments, The Open Championship and the Callers of Newcastle, moving my entry for Regional Qualifying for the Open had been no problem and I was prepared to travel the 350miles to Newcastle. The Open Regional Qualifying was to take me back to Foxhills again and the Longcross course. The week before I was due to play, I was told I couldn’t have the time off and would have to withdraw, also I would have to withdraw from the Callers too. I did, and then two days before the Regional Qualifying I was given that day off.

That did it for me, I left Brighton and returned to Leeds and Roundhay GC after only three months away. I had made some good friends in Brighton and would miss them but I still wanted to play, one or two Tournaments was OK but none, that was unacceptable.


Last edit : Mon 25th May 2009 02:34
re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
David Lythgoe [FORUM MODERATOR]
Reply : Mon 25th May 2009 02:31

PART THREE

1978 arrived, I was very disillusioned with golf.

I wanted to play the game, I even had ‘game’ but I didn’t have the financial background to concentrate on playing. I was all for giving it up when I got asked to play in a promotional event in East Anglia.

A local Insurance Company wanted twelve Pro’s to play four courses in two days while a bus went with us to promote the company. We would be looked after for the two days and a prize of £750 was available, it took me a Nanosecond to say yes.

So I met the other eleven guys at the companies HQ in Norwich on the eve of day one. We were taken to a local Hotel and told the format, 72 holes on four courses, Thetford, Royal Norwich, Great Yarmouth & Caister and Rookery Park, we would be transported on the Promotional Bus and local caddies would be provided.

I shot 74 at Thetford and 76 at Royal Norwich and was 8 shots back with eight of the guys ahead of me - NO CHANCE!!!!!! - so off to the free bar and telling tales to my new found friends. I finally staggered to bed about 1 am and it was about 11 am the following morning when I seemed to get my senses back, thing was we had teed off for round three at 9 am. I was standing on the 10th fairway at Great Yarmouth & Caister waiting to hit my second shot.

"A 7iron should get you home" the Norfolk tones of Darren my caddie hit my fuzzled brain.

"What?"

"A 7iron David, I’ve been right all day so far"

"Where?"

"10th, Great Yarmouth"

"Why?"

"Your playing golf"

"I know that, but how?"

"Very well, out in 29, chance of winning"

Sorry for putting it down like this, its more dramatic.

I had played the first nine holes with my brain disengaged, I can usually remember shots I had played weeks later but on this occasion I couldn’t remember one I had hit minutes earlier.

Darren helped a great deal on that back nine and I finished with a 62 and had climbed into second spot, one behind.

The afternoon saw us play Rookery Park and a 72 saw me win by a single shot and the following day I returned to Leeds with a nice Trophy and £750 richer.

Later that year I got another interview, this time to run a shop at another course for a couple of Professionals.

So I now moved North to Sunderland to run the shop at Whitburn GC with a new confidence in my game.

I was nearly there.

A young lad of 22 had two paths open to him in Professional Golf.

To play or not?

I had taken the first big step into an area between the two, as a Club Pro you can put an Assistant in the shop and play as much as you want. Although the position was working for someone I was still in charge and it got even better after three months when Whitburn GC decided they wanted their own Professional and I was taken on by them. The only problem was that I didn’t have a lot of money to stock the shop, so I pulled a few favours in and got many items on Sale or Return. Also my wage went up to £30 per week but now I had the pofits from sales plus as many lessons as I could get.

1978 went and 1979 arrived with me in good spirit, so much so that with snow on the ground I jetted off to Spain for my first holiday in nearly ten years.

Landing back at Newcastle Airport and finding my car under six foot of snow, and in April, didn’t trouble me and after getting a tractor to help pull it out, went back to work with a new spring in my step.

When I had gone to Brighton, I had signed with Wilson but now I was the Club Pro I asked around for who was giving the best deal on Sponsorship. A lot of companies had stopped giving equipment away free but Ben Sayers had sent me a set of Diawa clubs when I had first moved north. Then totally out of the blue, Hogan offered me a set of Apex irons, plus a bag and a local garage said I could have to use of a car if I would allow them to advertise on it.

So I took delivery of a brand new Ford Capri with "DAVID LYTHGOE, PGA PROFESSIONAL, WHITBURN GOLF CLUB" on each door and "DAVID LYTHGOE PLAYS HOGAN GOLF EQUIPMENT" on the back with "CAR SUPPLIED BY SELWOODS OF SOUTH SHIELDS" on the back window.

I was going places and the first port of call was Lanark GC and the Regional Qualifying for The Open.

The round started quietly and was going along smoothly until I arrived at the par 3 7th, a Wedge shot landed about ten feet short of the hole bounced once and ran straight into the cup; AN ACE!!!!!; of course I followed that with a bogey, but three birdies on the back nine saw me hand in a 74 and that was placed well enough for it to look like I was off to Final Qualifying.

The Captain of Lanark GC told me that the custom their was that the Club stood the traditional "Round of Drinks" and I was taken into the Members Lounge and spent a few hours making new friends.

Problem was, the scoring got better and 74 was to play-off, seven players for only one spot. I was drawn in the second group of four, three going in the first group. Two of the guys in the first group made birdie 3’s and I saw that from the fairway has one of my group put his second to 3ft. I knew that I had to make 3, and hit my second shot right at the pin but it didn’t stop as quick as I thought and left me a 20ft down hiller to go to the second. I gave it a good shot sending it 4ft past and then missed that one to miss out even on an "Alternate Place".

Here in the UK there are several Tournaments each year that a ‘Club Member’ can win through to a Regional Final and then an "All expences paid trip" to the Finals, some team the Club Pro with the Member.

In 1979 "State Express 555" was such an event, with the Regional Final at Ganton GC and the Finals in Portugal. Whitburn held its Medal and a young 18yr old called Tony won it. He was over the moon and even if we got no further than Ganton, it would be an experience to remember. The Club tried to change him for the Club Champion and Member of the Committee but I refused saying Tony won through so should play. He did.

We went to Ganton and were having a good round, not a great round, when we came to the 15th, a long difficult par 4, Tony made a fantastic 4 nett 3 and I then birdied 16, and 17 and knocked my second on 18 to 12ft.

I was told "hole that and your off to Portugal", I nearly did, the ball just didn’t turn enough.

A couple of weeks later I was at Selby GC trying to qualify for the Sun Alliance European Match-Play Championship at Fulford. I posted a 71 and waited.

The number of spots at qualifying was getting smaller and smaller, there were seven available that day and by the finish of play six guys were better than me so another play-off.

Six people were on 71, but only four turned up on the 15th tee. John Paramore was the Referee and declared that ONE spot plus 1st, 3rd & 5th Alternates were available. The 15th was a long par 3 and I made 3 as did another lad, the other two made 4’s so they crossed to the 18th while we continued down 16. Two pars at 16, 17 and 18, then back to the 15th. As we stood on the tee John Paramore said that we didn’t need to continue as there had been a withdrawal and we were both IN.

Yes! I was into my first European Tour Event.

The draw was made and I played Mike Nutter another Club Pro.

I went to Fulford for a practice round with my old boss Hedley who was also playing, and as we were walking down the 15th fairway, John Paramore came charging up towards us in a buggy.

"David" he said "We’ve had to change the draw, your now off at 9.29am and are now playing ANTONIO GARRIDO".

ANTONIO GARRIDO had finished 2nd to Graham Marsh in the previos weeks Dutch Open, had won twice in 1977, including the B&H at Fulford GC and was on the verge of making the 1979 Ryder Cup team.

At 9.29am on August 2nd 1979 Antonio hit a drive about 250yds down the center of the 1st at Fulford GC. At 9.31am I hit a long high draw into the left semi of 300yds+.

Later as my par putt missed on the 13th green to take me to three over I shook hands, done 7&5. He lost in the Semi that week, beaten by Nick Price.

Here is the round from Fulford GC.

PAR__4 4 3 4 3 5 4 4 5 36 3 5 4 4 3 4 4 4 5 36

AG___3 3 3 3 3 4 4 5 4 32 3 6 3 4

ME___4 4 3 4 3 5 4 5 5 37 4 5 4 5

On looking at the Scoreboard afterwards I would have been up against half the field including being 2up on Tony Jacklin

re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
David Lythgoe [FORUM MODERATOR]
Reply : Tue 26th May 2009 12:28

The full story is now available on My Blog page.


Last edit : Tue 26th May 2009 13:50
re: My life as a Circuit Pro.
Russell Middleton [FORUM MODERATOR]
Reply : Tue 26th May 2009 16:59

David, a very interesting read.

I'll have to go and read your blog now.

Russ

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